I did a little canoeing when I was younger, but only on flat water. It’s great fun and is an excellent way to appreciate the waters in & around the UK. The sport has grown steadily over the years; its history can probably be traced back to the earliest forms of transport when settlers in the UK travelled around the coast & up rivers. So, coastal exploring is not new but it does offer a unique opportunity to see some of the UK’s most inaccessible places and allows close encounters with our wildlife.
The report by the Maritime Coastguard Agency into 2010 incidents can be found here: http://www.dft.gov.uk/mca/2010_canoe_and_kayak_incident_report_kp_rev_1-2.pdf It has some worrying statistics, which I have supplemented the ‘District Totals’ chart with some extremely pertinent information on which Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres are being closed in the forthcoming Government cuts:
It would seem that the busiest Rescue Centres are the ones being closed. The importance of LOCAL KNOWLEDGE cannot be stressed enough for this type of incident in particular because this type of craft go to some of the most inaccessible places often only known by their local name.
Being properly equipped with things like VHF radio, smoke flares & good navigation aids will increase your survival rate, if the worst happens & things go wrong. Accidents, illness and sudden change in weather can all affect the most experienced people engaged in this type of pastime. The next biggest challenge is actually locating the casualties and the time that this takes. Even with the best gear time is a crucial factor.
Currently all 999 calls for HM Coastguard go to one of the Rescue Centres in the above chart, When 50% of these are closed the plan will be that all calls go to one South Coast Call Centre (likely to be call centre staff NOT Coastguards) who will probably hand you over to the nearest remaining Rescue Centre if they can establish where your call is from. With mobile phones using any connection node available, your location can be significantly difficult to establish. It will rely on the caller giving accurate national references to the location. MCA have already documented the impossibility of integrating written Local Knowledge records into a national database due to volume & formats held at closing stations.
It would appear that the future holds many extra risks for this sport, already there has been a number of incidents this year e.g. March 2012 “Kayakers thrown against rocks” involved both Portland & Brixham
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Written by Coastal Joe